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While many of us are ready to get back to customary holiday traditions, COVID cases are rising again in some areas of the country. SCL Health physicians caution us that we still need to keep COVID risk-reduction in mind. Even if your family is fully vaccinated, remember those in your family or friend circle who are the most vulnerable, particularly people over 75 or the immunocompromised.
Since the start of the pandemic, we've learned a lot about how to reduce the risks of catching and spreading the virus, including some simple steps and reminders about masking and handwashing.
In addition, if you're gathering with grandparents or older relatives, realize that they're still at risk. While the vaccines offer strong protection against hospitalizations and death, breakthrough infections are a reality. Often, a coronavirus infection following vaccination leads to only mild illness, and sometimes people test positive but show no symptoms. However, older people and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of getting a severe breakthrough case.
Here are some additional reminders about how to keep your family gatherings safe.
Who should get tested
The following people should get tested for COVID-19:
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested to check for infection:
- Fully vaccinated people should be tested 5–7 days after their last exposure.
- People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested immediately when they find out they are a close contact. If their test result is negative, they should get tested again 5–7 days after their last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop.
- People not fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19.
- People not fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine have been asked or referred to get testing by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, state, or local health department.
Who does not need to be tested?
The following people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to get tested if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms:
COVID-19 viral testing tool
The COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool is an interactive web tool designed to help healthcare providers and individuals understand COVID-19 testing options. This tool helps healthcare providers quickly access the most relevant, actionable information to determine what type(s) of COVID-19 testing they should recommend to patients. The tool allows individuals to choose what kind of test they should seek. After test results are in, the tool can help interpret test results and guide the next steps. The online, mobile-friendly tool asks questions and provides recommended actions and resources based on the user's responses.
Types of tests
COVID-19 tests are available that can test for current infection or past infection.
- A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. Two viral tests can be used: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests.
- An antibody test (also known as a serology test) might tell you if you had a past infection. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection.
How to get tested for current COVID-19 infection
- If you are asymptomatic (you do not have symptoms) but may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you can find a community testing site nearby.
- Contact your healthcare provider or visit your state, or local health department's website to find the latest local information on testing. The type of viral COVID-19 tests offered may differ by location.
You and your healthcare provider might also consider either an at-home collection kit or an at-home test if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and if you can't get tested by a healthcare provider or public health official.
How to use results of viral tests
- If you test positive, know what protective steps to take to prevent others from getting sick.
- If you test negative, you probably were not infected when your sample was collected. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing. Continue to take steps to protect yourself.